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Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 12:54
Tighter measures on academic practices to improve integrity
By Zhang Zhihao
Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 12:54 By Zhang Zhihao

China aims to substantially improve its academic integrity and practices within three years by implementing stricter rules to curb academic misconduct, nepotism and the shortsighted pursuit of quick success, according to a document released recently.

The general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council last week jointly published a document with detailed measures to uphold the good qualities of scientists and improve their academic conduct. It is the first time the general office has published a paper on this topic.

The new rules include "zero-tolerance" of academic misconduct, and severe punishment of violators

The new rules include "zero-tolerance" of academic misconduct, and severe punishment of violators. The new rules forbid scientists from outsourcing their work without permission, using unrelated research results to meet project requirements, boasting about the value of their research or making unsubstantiated claims to the public.

The new rules also aim to reduce bureaucratic red tape and empower scientists to have greater autonomy and room to experiment in their research.

READ MORE: China to improve ethics oversight for researchers

The promotion and evaluation of scientists will also focus less on the number of papers, titles, prizes and educational experiences, but more on scientific significance and the socioeconomic impact.

"Academic integrity and practices are crucial parts of creating an innovative and powerful nation," Dai Guoqing, head of the Department of Supervision and Scientific Integrity of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said on Thursday.

However, improper evaluation and management, lax regulations and punishment for academic misconduct, as well as pursuit of instant success are still present in China's system.

"The new regulations focus on tackling these issues at the root, and creating the basis for developing effective, long-term solutions that support our scientists to focus on their research, make breakthroughs and benefit society," Dai said.

The new rules also try to reduce the power and influence of "scholar-tyrants" - experts who command great authority in their fields but tend to discriminate against young talent outside of their circles.

ALSO READ: China issues tough rules to curb academic fraud

The rules include banning favoritism and nepotism during evaluation and voting on promotions. They also prohibit provinces, especially non-coastal ones, competing for talent from offering higher salaries and favorable treatment to prospective employees.

Feng Chujian, the deputy head of the ministry's department of supervision and scientific integrity, said improving academic integrity and practices is an arduous process, "but China already has most of the pieces in place to make noticeable progress within the next few years."

Since last May, the general offices of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council have published regulations dedicated to tackling academic dishonesty, as well as new guidelines on personnel evaluation and institutional reforms.

"The effort and emphasis is unprecedented," Feng said.

To ensure academic integrity has improved, Feng said the ministry will partner with third-party institutions for evaluations, make sure new rules are being implemented at the local level, and investigate and punish violators.

Meng Lingyun, a publicity official for the China Association for Science and Technology, said Chinese scientists have many valuable qualities that are inspiring to the people, such as patriotism, innovation, practicality, selflessness and being willing to teach. "These qualities should be widely celebrated, they are our national treasures," he said.

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